EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: FEAR AND DISCOMFORT AT THE THEATRE Image

The trailer on the screen in front of me was making me squirm in my seat. I felt strange and slightly uncomfortable as I witnessed it play out, the audience around me laughing as if on cue. I didn’t know why they were laughing, though. There wasn’t anything really funny happening on the screen. Nothing funny at all.

Secondhand Lions was just a really odd looking film, and Haley Joel Osment was starting to creep me out. His voice was changing, and he looked way too awkward in his skin. I pictured him tongue kissing that girl from the Harry Potter movies and almost threw up my white cherry slushie. The robot kid who saw dead people was turning into a Young Man, and it was in front of me larger than life. Shudder.

I have found that there are quite a few movies that disturb me. I can’t often pinpoint the reason why they make me feel this way, but I can tell you they aren’t the usual movies that cause people to feel like they need a shower. I know films like “Snuff,” “Zombie Holocaust” and Irreversible bother some folks, but not me. I get freaked out by “Mannequin,” “How to Deal” and that movie that featured Gary Coleman living in a locker at some bus station. I remember that he would shine people’s shoes and predict the winners of horse races. That movie made me as nervous as a virgin meeting Mike Tyson.

The movies that freak me out have weird plots (“Weekend at

Bernie’s”) or strange cast members (Mandy Moore always looks like she’s been lobotomized or something). They have disconcerting posters (“Ordinary People”) or subject matter that really bothers me for one reason or another

(“Kindergarten Cop”). Some people I know don’t like films with an “ugly” cast. Some don’t like the film stock used. Me? Hell, anything can set me off.

Children’s films bother me, too. Not all of them, though. I loved the “Spy Kids” flicks. It’s stuff like Finding Nemo and Lilo and Stitch that I find to be incredibly bizarre. It’s something about the stereotypical characters and cliched plots, I guess. I find it even more disturbing that there are adults who like these films. I know the directors put in some “adult” moments for these people, but I know far too many folks who don’t have kids, yet they see these films anyway … in the theatre! That’s as disturbing as John Waters going to see the Care Bears movie by himself (and a lot less funny).

When I first saw the trailer for Bruce Almighty, the audience was howling with laughter. One mental giant said, “That looks like a great film.” I had to wonder: Was it the Jennifer Aniston boob joke that cinched the deal for that guy? Perhaps it was Jim Carrey typing really, really fast. What a hoot! That film just looked kind of skewed to me. Jim Carrey with the powers of Morgan Freeman — sorry — God? That’s not funny! That’s terrifying as hell! Does anyone not remember “Dumb and Dumber”?

Secondhand Lions really did it for me, though. I had always been aware of certain movies making me feel just a little off, but this one took the cake. The trailer’s music was so sappy that I was sure there would be at least one moment in the film that was purposely made to make people cry. Then there was the whole look of the movie. That house the uncles lived in looked like it would smell like dirty old men. And what was the deal with the young boy living with them (complete with hilarious moments where he asked about television, called a pig a dog and found some money)? That situation just reeked of pedophilia. Creepy movie. Very creepy movie.

When I was younger, I was forced to see “Under the Rainbow,” another creepy film. My family decided to take me to see that instead of taking me to the revival of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” I’ve never really forgiven them for that. “Under the Rainbow” had a cast of midgets who really gave me the shivers. Then there was the uncomfortable-looking Chevy Chase, who was surrounded by people who could attack his kneecaps at any given moment. All of this was enough to make me gag whenever one of those little fiends’ voices cackled through the theatre’s crappy sound system. My skin crawls every time I remember that bit of child abuse. That was the first time I remember really being made uncomfortable by a movie. “Secondhand Lions” brought the feeling back full circle.

When I went to see Cabin Fever there was a huge, backlit poster for Secondhand Lions. In the lower left-hand corner of the poster was a neon-pink piece of paper. It advised people to show up at the theatre on Sunday at five p.m. for a special sneak preview of the film. A family of four was admiring the poster as I walked past. “Maybe we’ll come back tomorrow,” the mother said.

“I don’t want to see that,” the little boy told his top-heavy mother. “I want to see ‘Dickie Roberts’.”

“No,” the father told him, wrapping his arm around his son’s shoulders. “I think Secondhand Lions looks like a far better film.”

That poor f*****g kid. I know what he’ll be going through.

Twenty years down the line, he’ll be like me. Parents, you have been warned. Don’t expose your kids to midgets or NAMBLAesque films. Your kid’s future may depend on it.
Discuss Doug Brunell’s “Excess Hollywood” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>

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